Corsican knives – the Vendetta

You may be one of the lucky ones who will visit Corsica and its splendid landscapes this summer. If you don’t know it, you will quickly discover why this region is called the “Isle of Beauty”. And it is a destination of choice for knife lovers!

Corsica has been a land of knives since antiquity and its cutlery has become a real tradition.
The traditional fixed knife is first of all a dagger “à la génoise”, heritage of the partly Italian history of Corsica.
Like many rural regions, the knife was first and foremost a tool used by the peasants for daily work, or for offensive/defensive purposes. Some models of Corsican knives have become famous over time, but the list is far from exhaustive because the island of beauty is full of small utility knives! They are easily recognizable because they often bear the name of their geographical origin, in Corsican language of course.

Nowadays, they continue their history with new models that combine tradition and modernity. And we can affirm that there is not “one” but “many” Corsican knives!

The legend of the Vendetta knife

This is probably the most famous knife from Corsica. The Vendetta is particularly recognizable with its very particular shape: a long and pointed blade, a wide bolster and a rounded handle.

Vendetta” is a word of Italian origin meaning “revenge”, the word would refer to “private justice”, especially between two families (who often used knives to settle their account…)

Legend has it that at a time when firearms were not commonplace, this knife was used in the fields to slaughter animals as well as to restore a family’s honor. And it was not uncommon to see knives decorated with formulas as murderous as their blades. A detail that also contributed to the fame of the object.
The Vendetta knife is, in a way, well named! Unlike other more “traditional” knives (such as the Pialincu or the Rondinara), Vendettas are not inspired by and do not take their name from the knives of peasants in difficult lands, nor from the fishermen of the coastal ports of the island of Beauty.

Vendetta knives in the Bechon-Gorce catalog, circa 1895).
Vendetta knives in the Bechon-Gorce catalog, circa 1895).

But in reality…

The truth is a little less glamorous. The Corsican Vendetta is what we call in the jargon, a neo-regional knife. It is a tourist knife, a very bad word, we grant you. And unfortunately, like many famous models, there is a (too) large quantity of blades imported from China or Pakistan on the markets, even in Corsica. For the 20th century buyer, a vendetta bought on the island of beauty was actually… thiernoise! The creation of this knife is linked to the publication of Colomba, a very successful novel by Prosper Mérimée in 1840. The work will have the merit of launching the fashion of the novels-feuilletons. On the menu, love affairs, bloody skirmishes and… revenge of course! But the reality in Corsica is much less romantic, the shepherds used much more basic knives made by the local cutlers, often in ram’s horn, an easy material to get.